American singer-songwriter, Eric Church set out on his The Gather Again Tour with the intention of uniting fans and celebrating the return of live music touring, following the release of his Heart & Soul album. For this latest tour, Church no longer had to worry about designated mic positions during the show, thanks to BlackTrax.
The Gather Again Tour shows took place in arena-sized venues, the stage was set up in an intimate, in-the-round style where the audience surrounds the performer from all sides. The design brief mandated that 64 automated Robe BMFL follow spots simultaneously tracked the eight different targets; eight fixtures allocated per target.
Production Designer, Butch Allen collaborated with TAIT to develop the Navigator camera system, a new flying camera solution. BlackTrax sent positional information to TAIT via RTTRP-M, so the flying cameras could automatically track Eric Church in real-time. Throughout the show, the Navigator camera system flew the length of the arena, capturing a 360° view of the stage and the audience surrounding the stage while also tracking the performers via BlackTrax.
“We love working with BlackTrax,” said Touring Lighting Director, Gavin Lake. “The whole team was surprised by the degree of accuracy. In the preliminary talks, we thought ‘millimetre’ accuracy was a marketing ploy but it was not – I’ve never seen anything in entertainment lighting this precise.”
Typically, Lake dedicates two to three hours each show day to update key position focus’ that can’t be left in the hands of a spotlight operator. Now he doesn’t have to worry about any of those, he has confidence the BlackTrax system is going to work, allowing him to focu on the flow and look of the show.
The Gather Again Tour has an extensive setup and tear-down regime, in addition to having a short window between weekend shows. The crew has limited time to get ready, to change the network, and they do it twice a weekend. Christie Lites Account Executive, Robert Roth calls it ‘typical’, but it still requires an extensive amount of work noting the ability for the team to pivot, “seamless”, despite any obstacles met.
“Once we decided to use BlackTrax, the hardware support in terms of helping us detail the network was 110%. The software support, the same thing, the field technician we hired through the BlackTrax team, John Taylor, was a rock star,” he commented. “There was a time crunch across the whole show and the BlackTrax team integrated well, exceeded expectations and they did it in a short time frame with some logistics pressures. Very happy with the service.”
Roth believes BlackTrax products and support have exceeded expectations. The Gather Again Tour continues through July 2022 with BlackTrax. Roth anticipates future BlackTrax use by saying “when the product matches the vision of the design team they are working with, they will be including BlackTrax in those future productions,” he remarked. Lake praised CAST Group staff and support within a limited time frame. “The product support and training we received was amazing. They guided us through the setup and integration process every step of the way. They were all very quick to respond to any question that arose every step of the way. All of us jumped headlong into BlackTrax implementation with very short notice, and if it wasn’t also for them, I don’t think we could have pulled it off.”
The core production crew comprised Production Designer, Butch Allen; Touring Lighting Director, Gavin Lake; Christie Lites Account Executive, Robert Roth; Touring BlackTrax Technicians, Robert Harrison and John Fields; BlackTrax Onsite Installation Technician, John Taylor.
The BlackTrax team featured BlackTrax Interactive Channel Manager, Dekkar Densham; Technical Team Lead, William McDaniel as well as Training and Product Support Specialist, Nicholas Lau, who oversaw 12 BlackTrax SX13 sensors, eight BlackTrax beacon, 64 Robe BMFLs and a TAIT Navigator camera system.
This article originally appeared in issue #268 of TPi, which you can read here.